Best in Show: 2001–05

The third part of our new five part series: the frieze editors select the most significant shows from the past 25 years

Documenta 11, 2002, curated by Okwui Enwezor (various venues, Kassel, Germany)

Kobena Mercer: ‘Where there is much in contemporary art that baulks at the idea that art must 'do' anything, let alone respond to great tragedies, Documenta 11 put forward a carefully composed survey of art that is engaged with the lived experience of the material world. What distinguished this Documenta, directed by Okwui Enwezor, was not so much the wide-ranging selection of artists from all over the globe as the way in which its outward-looking approach to internationalism was installed as a background feature, throwing the curators' specific conceptual interests more sharply into relief.’

7th Lyon Biennale, 2003, curated by Robert Nickas, Anne Pontégnie, Eric Troncy, Xavier Doroux and Frank Gautherot (various venues)

Tom Morton: ‘The seventh Lyon Biennale takes its title, 'C'est Arrivé Demain' (It Happened Tomorrow), from a 1944 film by René Clair. In the movie, every morning a journalist is inexplicably delivered the following day's newspaper, a stitch in time that allows him to scoop his peers until - finally, fatefully - he spots his own picture on the obituary page. As biennale names go (and they can go very, very badly) 'C'est Arrivé Demain' is good. Gently humourous, it hints at the paradox at the heart of the predictive model of exposition-making - 'what if?' scenarios, which, by their very nature, shape what is to come.’

Ana Mendieta: Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance, 1972-1985, 2004 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York)

Kristin M. Jones: ‘A decade ago Luis Camnitzer wrote perceptively in his book New Art of Cuba of the rift between Mendieta’s art and the contemporary American mainstream caused by the dual preoccupation with her work as ‘ethnic and feminist’. He wrote: ‘The fact of her double separateness, along with the artificiality of the quota system, created a static that tended to interfere with a direct relationship to her work by the audience.’ Camnitzer went on to quote derogatory remarks made by certain critics after Mendieta’s death and to note that, even in 1994, the time was not ripe for adequate appreciation of her work. One hopes that time has finally arrived.’

Rirkrit Tiravanija, 2004-5 (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam)

Dan Fox: ‘Tomorrow is Another Fine Day’ (on tour from Boijmans vanBeuningen in Rotterdam, via the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris to London’s Serpentine Gallery) is defined as Tiravanija’s mid-career retrospective. Traditionally such exhibitions provide an opportunity for reflection, a rigorously circumspect degree of self-congratulation and then a bold step forward into new adventures. Yet Tiravanija’s work, so dependent as it is on people, places and a certain moment in time, was never going to suit the average museum retrospective format.

4th Berlin Biennial, 2006, curated by Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni and Ali Subotnick (various venues)

Jörg Heiser: ‘The former Jewish School for Girls is open again, for the first time in ten years. But the beeping metal detector at the entrance is a reminder that it remains a highly charged place. The beeping blends in with the sound of doors slamming. Down the corridor is a gymnasium, at the centre of which stands another room, the walls of which open and close, while doors set into them close with a loud bang. You can enter the room and inspect the simple motorized mechanism – there’s nothing mysterious about it – yet this machine chills you to the bone by the way it hints at the organized destruction of life. In recent times Paul McCarthy has become the Dionysian anti-Disney, but here he feels like an artist again, with a sense of means and scale. If Bang-Bang Room hadn’t been made in 1992, you would have guessed it had been specially commissioned for this show.’

Other notable exhibitions:

Olafur Eliasson, ‘The Weather Project’, 2003 (Turbine Hall, Tate Modern); Blinky Palermo, 2003 (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona); ‘Utopia Station’, 2003, curated by Molly Nesbit, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija (50th Venice Biennale); Manifesta 5, 2004, curated by Massimiliano Giono (various venues, Donostia/San Sebastiá); Sturtevant, 2004 (Museum Moderner Kunst, Frankfurt)

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